Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tens List: 10 Things We Didn't Know About the English Occupation of Wales by J. Anderson Coats

10 Things We Didn't Know About the English Occupation of Wales

10) The English occupation of Wales happened piecemeal over at least two hundred years between 1066-1284, and possibly longer depending on who you ask.

9) The English occupation of north Wales happened militarily over about eighteen months between 1282-84, and over the next several generations in the form of colonization.

8) It was made possible by the collapse of native Welsh government and the power vacuum that resulted from the battlefield killing of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and the execution of his brother Dafydd, the last Welsh Princes of Wales.

7) The English sought to ensure that the Welsh never caused trouble again, so they implemented an extensive - and expensive - castle-building, urban development and settlement program to maintain control of the area through extra-military means.

6) Caernarvon one of many castle towns planted by the English, and it was to be the new capital of the Principality of North Wales.  A small but growing Welsh settlement was leveled to make room for it.

5) On the surface, the aftermath of occupation beginning in 1283-84 was surprisingly lenient.  There were no wholesale executions of Welsh nobility and no attempts to ban the Welsh language or any other type of cultural expression.

4) There were, however, a number of quiet legal and economic sleights-of-hand that made it easy for the English to get what they wanted in other ways.

3) Which was the establishment of English hegemony by force of law and force of arms with an insidious eye toward economic subjugation and cultural assimilation.

2) The native Welsh nobility and landholders (who had kept their heads down and mouths shut) were completely aware of what was happening.  There was just nothing to do about it.  Until doing nothing was no longer an option.

1) By 1308, there was a Welsh sheriff of Caernarvon.  Time marches on.

About the Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats 
Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.

Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.

While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point

Book Review: Unbroken by Jamie Lisa Forbes

 Unbroken by Jamie Lisa Forbes
Publisher: Pronghorn Press
Publish Date: May 20, 2010
Paperback, 324 pages
Fiction, Women's Fiction
 ISBN: 978-1932636611

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My Review: 
I don't read many books about life in the west, but the books I do read appeal to me.  Something about learning about this tough way of life just brings me right into the book and into the plot.  The women are tough, they have to be, it's the only way they can survive, at least from what I can gather.  Unbroken is one of those books.  It spans the period of several years, a lot of heartache and learning and some really tough women who still need someone to lean on when the going gets tough.  It's a family saga of sorts, it's women's fiction of sorts, it's about ranching and it's about so much more.  I don't even think I can capture in this review the essence of this book, but it captured my heart and mind for the better part of a day. I thought it was well worth my time and I was wishing it didn't have to end.

The main characters of Unbroken are Gwen and Meg.  Both tough ranching women and both very different.  Meg is skittish, she's been hurt.  She's recently divorced, and she's raising her son on her own while making a go of a lifestyle that few women choose to do on their own.  Gwen is married with two kids and a father-in-law and she's at a point that she's feeling a little resentful of ranch life and the toll it takes on her, her children and her marriage.  Her friendship with Meg is a little forced at the beginning but over time the women become good friends.  I liked getting to know both Gwen and Meg through the elements of ranching and parenting.  It framed them and made them easy and interesting to get to know.  I also liked seeing how they grew and changed around each other.  How Meg admired Gwen and how Gwen admired Meg.  Both thought the other was strong.  It's always greener on the other side.  How very true in life.

As far as the plot goes, Ms. Forbes doesn't waste time, the story speeds along through time, the cattle give birth, winter comes and goes, various people die (I will admit to crying from time-to-time) and the big plot events happen.  And just when you think you have the story figured out, it takes a new turn and you learn to admire the characters even more.  This isn't a laugh a minute story.  It's tough, it's real, but that's what I liked about it.  No punches are pulled, but I liked the resilience of the characters and how they don't give up even when it would have been easier.  To me that was the great take-away value of the book, don't give up.

Unbroken was a very satisfying read for me.  I had an afternoon of peace with my husband and children gone and I was still recovering from being sick and I just relished reading this book.  I found myself putting off eating so I could read "just one more chapter" because I was so involved in the lives of the characters.  Ms. Forbes has a way of drawing you into the lives of the characters and making you feel like you are there living and working beside them, being friends with them.  It's wonderful and when the book is over you feel sad, because you want more of the story even though the story has come to it's conclusion.  But you want more because you don't want to leave the characters.  To me that is the mark of a good book, when the characters and the storyline stay with me after finishing.  When I'm still thinking about something they said or did or wondering about a point the author was making or even applying something to my life.  Unbroken has something for everyone.  Descriptions of ranching life, romance, friendship, parenting, tough decisions and so much more.  There is never a lull in the plot and I found it to be an amazing read.

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

About the Book:
Gwen Swan’s dreams of a life as a rancher’s wife have withered through years of 24/7 chores and warring family members. Bitterness has tarnished her outlook and troubles with her son, Rory, burden her hopes for the future.

Meg Braeburn, who has broken away from her family’s ranch, expects hard work when she takes a job on the place neighboring the Swans’. She is determined to leave a troubled past behind, yet she does not foresee how isolation will corrode her resolve. Over time, she is grateful for the friendship and support that Gwen extends to her.
But as the ranching seasons grind relentlessly onward, hearts seek comfort where it can be found and the womens’ bond is strained as both the Swan family and the Braeburn family find themselves struggling against the elements and each other to continue their way of life.

About the Author: 
Jamie Lisa Forbes was born and raised on a family ranch along the Little Laramie River in southeast Wyoming. After graduation from the University of Colorado in 1977, she studied and worked in Israel for over a year and then returned to Wyoming where she ranched and raised a family for the next 15 years. After the family ranch was sold in 1993, she moved to North Carolina and eventually began law school at the University of North Carolina. While in law school, she started her debut novel, Unbroken. Unbroken won the 2011 WILLA Literary Award for outstanding contemporary fiction featuring women in the West. Ms. Forbes practices law in Greensboro, North Carolina and is working on a second novel.


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Waiting On Wednesday (21)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

I saw this in Shelf Awareness and was first intrigued by a YA offering by historical romance queen Phillipa Gregory.  Then I read the synopsis and I'm even more intrigued.  I have to read this.  What do you think?

Changeling by Phillipa Gregory 
Part 1 of Order of Darkness series
Simon Pulse, May 29, 2012
Hardcover, 272 pages
ISBN-10: 1442453443
ISBN-13: 9781442453449
Grades: 9 and up
Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.

Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.
Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.
Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.
The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.
So what are you waiting on this week?